Staying Balanced While Life is Full

Last time I shared about keeping realistic expectations and adjusting goals to fit what I could manage. Did you see it? Those photos won’t grace the internets very often.

During that year as I adjusted to life as mom, I decided what would be my main areas of responsibility. I focused on those as my true priorities because I wanted to keep my life balanced. I kept them written in a notebook to remind myself.


1. Spiritual

  • Read Bible
  • Pray
  • Praise God
  • Ministry opportunities

2. Husband

  • Encourage him
  • Be loving
  • Be nice
  • Take care of physical needs

3. Child

  • Love on her
  • Teach her
  • Care for physical needs
  • Play with her

4. Me

  • Time to rest
  • Interests
  • Health and appearance
  • Social interaction

5. Home

  • Clean and maintain
  • Laundry
  • Food
  • Paperwork and finances

6. Everyone Else

  • Communication
  • Opportunities to help
  • Gifts
  • Time together

It sounds like a lot, but seeing those areas written together helped me to pull back from the things that were receiving too much importance, and focus more on areas I felt had been neglected.

Having a clean home was important, but it wasn’t the measure of my success as a wife and mom. It was only one area of responsibility.

Keeping my interests on the list meant it was OK to spend time doing something I thought was fun.

Reminding myself to play with my daughter helped me to dedicate time for more than the feeding, nap time, and training.

It wasn’t necessarily easy and simple to stick to this list, as if I could just write it down and my life would fall into place. Some of the barriers I experienced on a daily basis:

1. Feeling tired and grumpy.
2. Being over-ambitious in planning.
3. Procrastinating and not taking advantage of short time increments.

And if I had an easy solution for those regular challenges, then none of us would be here to encourage each other.

its-doneWith an idea of how I wanted my life to be balanced and a huge measure of grace, I didn’t worry so much about the shortcomings. Now, when I look back at that time, I don’t think about the mess.

I remember the challenge of Lane depending on me and not being independent enough to be without me. I remember times when I got to be still and watch. I remember this:


When I write helpful tips here on Small Notebook, it’s not because I have everything figured out. It includes a lot of grace, because we’re all trying to do the best job we can.

I want to encourage you to take a moment and clearly define what your priorities are. If you have them written in a list, then you give yourself permission to let go of some of the things that aren’t so important. It’s easier to choose what to say no to, knowing that you’re choosing something better.  It makes it easier to extend more grace, because people and relationships become the focus instead of daily chores. And it makes it OK to not be perfect!

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Rachel, this is why I keep reading you! You help me remember I DON’T have to do it all, but just keep on keepin’ on and try to make all those little things count.

    Thanks girl.

    Lisa´s last blog post..Grace Funnies

  2. Writing everything down is a great idea. Helps keep us focused!
    I’m going to put spiritual in the center with everything going out from there. I’m thinking of different verses where God tells us He will direct our paths (ie Ps 25:4,5 – Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths, Lead me in Your trut and teach me…)Thanks again for the reminder ~ Elisa

  3. I love how simple the items you put under each category are. It’s not rocket science, but I think some of the biggest challenges come from the fact that, like you said, there are so MANY items on the list.

    This is where Moms get to learn how to prioritize, and maybe the best skill of all, how to let go.



    steadymom´s last blog post..Recommended Videos for Young Children

  4. Oh your barriers sound like mine!! Thanks for reminding me yet again that I am not the only one!

    Chele´s last blog post..Update and Other Stuff!

  5. I really like your list idea and plan to try it this afternoon. I consider cleaning something I do for myself. It makes life so much easier to stay clean and organized.

    It is difficult to write an authentic post about not being perfect or having everything figured out but you achieved it with just the right note.

    Nina´s last blog post..Two Weeks Worth…

  6. I’m a list girl too. But lately the procrastination is out of control.
    I made the same choice a few weeks ago to make time for play with my girls. I was so focused on our strict routine and getting through each day that I realized I wasn’t making enough time for fun. Let’s face it, if I didn’t choose to let go the only memories I would have of these very short first years would be those of eating, napping and training.

    mamaloves´s last blog’s not always pretty

  7. I just turned 30 and as a relatively new wife, I found I needed to make a similar list, or else the guilt and overcommitment would be neverending.

    It is freeing to realize that if it does not fit one of these categories, it is okay to let it go.


    Katherine´s last blog post..A Mind is a Precious Thing to Waste

  8. I too have to write it down. It helps me realize what is really important. And oh the joy of checking things off that list. Right now I am checking things off of my “things I want to do this summer list” and a few of those have been on my birthday list for the year, too. And when I keep those things in mind, I find I love my life even more! What a blessing to know what is truly important…!

    mrs. e´s last blog post..When the countryside is a canvas…

  9. Thanks for reminding us that we are not called to be perfect!! God truly desires for us to seek to know Him. In doing that, we will strive to honor Him through loving and serving our family. Great post.

    Kelli´s last blog post..Thrify Treasures

  10. “Procrastinating and not taking advantage of short time increments.”

    So I’m not the only one who does this? ;)

    I love that your list brings to life the “less is more” aspect of priorities. What I find to be helpful is to not examine my days on a daily basis so much as try to keep track over the span of a week. For example, there are days when my toddler is teething or didn’t get enough sleep or just plain cranky when I just have to pour more of myself and time and energy into caring for her. The end of those days can be very frustrating as I look around and see everything left undone! But if I can keep the perspective that not EVERY day is like that and that I can still pursue balance the next day, it helps me stay out of Mommy Meltdown Mode at the end of a hard day.

    Beautiful, practical, peaceful thoughts, Rachel. Thanks for sharing your heart with us!

  11. I made up the acronym GOME: God, Others, Me, Earth.
    Much of it went out the window during my fatiguing pregnancy and now that I have a newborn, but as I catch up on sleep this is my goal. I have a chore chart for myself of daily, weekly, and biweekly tasks that need to be done, and underneath the chart I check off the GOME boxes which are more important than the chores.
    God: daily devotions and praise
    Others: be social and contact at least one person every day
    Me: exercise
    Earth: walk the dog, recycle, and water the garden
    I like it because it is action oriented, but I admit it makes it easy to overlook the three biggies: my husband and my two little girls.

    Rachel´s last blog post..The Princess Bride

  12. great post! J :)

    LobotoME´s last blog post..{ feed ME }

  13. The lists I usually make for myself make me feel so overwhelmed and as though failure has already been decided. Thank you for the gift of your list. I look at each item, stated so simply, and I feel more peaceful. I love the chart, too. (Mmmm…pie…)

  14. yes, yes and more yes. so agree.

  15. Not only do I love the balance shown here, but I like how the different bullet points under each category are open – they can be done in very small, thoughtful moments, or large scale, depending on the day, the hour, or even just the minute…

    Leigh´s last blog post..Magic Carpet Ride

  16. I love the way you organized this. I blogged about a similar rearranging of priorities I’ve done recently too. You may enjoy it. I called it a ‘to be list’ rather than a to do list. Our responsibilities look similar!
    It’s here:

    Burning Bushes´s last blog post..Who’s the Boss?

  17. This was awesome! And very timely! I am going to print out a copy, hope you don’t mind….

    Lori Gray´s last blog post..Please stand by….

  18. beth nc says:

    This idea of creating priorities is helpful and your priorities tend focus on enjoying and cultivating relationships (your relationship to God, to your family, to others . . .) more than things. That’s nice! It’s easy to get caught up in things.

    For me, it’s helpful to think about how to measure these goals. For example, the relationship goal might be reaching out to 5 people a week (via phone, email, card). The caring for husband goal might mean preparing a meal he loves once a week. If you can measure some modest goals, you can point to some progress even if you don’t do as much of *everything* as you’d like.

  19. This is one of the best examples of getting down to what is really important in life that I have read. Wonderful!

    Marci@OvercomingBusy´s last blog post..Menu Plan Monday – June 15, 2009

  20. Denise C. says:

    I absolutely loved your last 2 posts! In my head I have my “priorities” but most of them never seem to get done. I love the idea of keeping a list, and really focusing on what is MOST IMPORTANT! Thanks again for being such a wonderful INSPIRATION!!! ;)

  21. Rachel, I love this list—or chart, rather. My husband and I are at a crossroads in life, and it’s decision time. I am going to think about this chart tonight as I make up my mind about what I’m going for out of life for the next portion.

    Sally Parrott Ashbrook´s last blog post..Wanna play in the kitchen?

  22. Thanks for this article, it’s just what I needed!

  23. I love your blog! Such simple but always important advice. You’re a wonderful inspiration!

    Nicole´s last blog post..LET THERE BE WALLS

  24. I love the pie chart you created. I must be a very visual person, because the whole “choose your priorities” advice that I’ve read in other places FINALLY sunk in! Thanks for that!

    I also love that choosing your priorities has allowed you to give yourself permission to just BE. Fantastic, and logical, which really appeals to me.

    Krys´s last blog post..Organized Morning Routine

  25. Wow, I love the chart idea – so much easier to visualise than a long list. I think my husband and I have to do something like this when he gets back from sea as we feel pulled in so many directions just now – I think this would help us focus on the important things (and not just the urgent things – they’re not the same!)

    Also loved what Burning Bushes said about a “to be list” instead of a “to do list”. That’s quite inspiring.
    Karen (Scotland)

  26. This is a fantastic post. The visual representation of your priorities is terrific. Seeing them in graphic form illustrated that all are part of a whole; you! Life is more enjoyable when we keep the balance.


    Suzanne´s last blog post..Keeping the Balance With Those Quality Relationships

  27. Wow. thank you for this post. I needed it today. I will be printing this out and I think I need to read it each day. I certainly need to make myself a little pie chart as well. Thank you again. This is why I keep you in the reader!

    april´s last blog post..a whole lotta prattle!

  28. Thanks for this article. I am always trying to figure out how to balance everything in life as a mom, wife, etc.

  29. Thanks for this post- I’ve been feeling rather “unbalanced” lately, without really consciously recognizing that “unbalanced-ness” is the underlying cause of my overall stressed-out feeling! This helped me realize that a lot of that stress could be relieved by simply balancing out a few things and shifting some of my focus. Thanks for the reminder. :-)

    KaseyQ´s last blog post..Welcome to Week 1 of Summer of Science: Rocks and Minerals!

  30. Thanks for this wonderful post. I am going to be making a ‘summer schedule’ for our family now that our homeschooling is over and I will definitely take the time to consider my priorities first.


    ChristineG´s last blog post..A few posts for your reading pleasure

  31. When I started taking online classes I had to make a shift. I knew if I couldn’t let go of having a perfect house I wouldn’t be able to keep my sanity.I like my sanity and my house isn’t always in order, but I am okay with that.

    I also spend time with friends and do things I enjoy and if that means a chore has to wait on the back burner, then so be it.

    Monica´s last blog post..What Happened to the Ham?

  32. What a lovely, encouraging post. Thanks!

    Shilo´s last blog post..Exhausted but Awake

  33. The pie chart up there…that threw me for a loop. Mainly because I can’t even begin to imagine taking an even share of time for “me.” Sad, right? I spend most of my time on the home and the kids. But mostly, the home. Cleaning, laundry, and more cleaning. I like this perspective. And I like the comment that a clean home is only part of my job. I sometimes think that is how I’m measured…how clean is my home?

    What a great post, thank you!

    Kristen@nosmallthing´s last blog post..Pink Jobs, etc.

  34. Ah a list, I have found myself posting about them right,left and centre lately but I have always loved them much to the amusement of all and sundry in my youth. I created my own chore chart, my own homework and study schedules and a sort of spreadsheet of my makeup and clothing as a teen – I kid you not. I think in my instance it was a sort of self-help for the undiagnosed ADD combined with horrifically competitive spirit but I am now middle aged and it still works to write it all down. Sort of like doing a business plan for the Corporation of Me and doing a budget for my different departments.

    Miechelle´s last blog post..THE DEFINITION OF SUCCESS

  35. I felt my head depressurize as I read this post. You are, as always, calming and re-stabilizing. Such an excellent way to approach the Year. Happy 2010!

    Zom´s last post…11.3 And less meat

  36. I remember reading this when you first posted it, but when you linked back to it, I took the time and reminder to sit down and write out priorities of my own. Your visual of the pie was really helpful. Sometimes, I feel more has been taken out of my personal pie than was there to begin with. Having this visual reminds me of the areas where I can replenish and renew, as well as the main goal of understanding better how to create balance. Thank you, Rachel!
    Jennifer´s last post…Hello!

  37. I saw your wheel and thought that’s what I do, but there is more! Once a week I make my wheel and grab a colored pencil and start shading in from the center out of each pie piece how I think I’m doing in fulfilling this role. I then make a quick list of actions to take to do a better job in that particular area in the upcoming week. As I am shading, I know that each pie piece is not equally important and shade in respect to where I think I should be in that role, not how Miss Perfect would.

  38. Thank you. I need to keep these things priorities too. I don’t want to live in a mess, but I need to step back before my children are too big for me to enjoy them. I want to do this. Thank you for posting this. My oldest is 2 and my youngest is 6 mos.

  39. Hi again, Rachel.

    I am wondering where blogging fits in here – is it in “interests”?

    I am sitting here amidst my own mess. Time to go and do something more important. Exercise and time in the Word.

    Adrienne @ Whole New Mom´s last post…“Beans and Rice” — and “Rice and — Fudge”?

    • I made this chart before I fit in blogging, but I usually fit it into “project” time which also includes house hunting, home renovation, trip planning, and other things that are a hybrid of my personal and family time.